Dirt Rag Magazine

First Impression: Salsa Pony Rustler



Salsa Cycles’ Pony Rustler is the rotund sibling of the brand’s well-admired Horsethief. Both bikes feature the same basic platform and very similar components, with the obvious difference being the wider wheelset of the Pony Rustler. I’ve been riding the Carbon X01 build for a few weeks and have been impressed on how well it tackles the ever-changing winter weather we’ve been experiencing on the East Coast this year. There has been everything from summer-like 70 degree days to Arctic cold temperatures mixed with slush, ice and deep powder. Throw in a couple of blistering windstorms and you get the idea.


I really have come to appreciate Salsa’s decision to use 45 mm WTB Scraper rims matched up 3-inch WTB Bridger tires. While not the best in the deep snow, the Bridgers have been a great all-around choice. The wide rims also do a great job of creating a nice full tire profile, allowing for more of the knobs to maintain contact with the trail surface.


Two of the three Pony Rustler build kits come with a 1x drivetrain; the lower-priced model ships with a 2x option. So far I’ve had no issues with the SRAM X01 that shipped with ours. Yea, it’s sometimes a pain to try and dump a bunch of gears when faced with an uphill you weren’t expecting, but I’m willing to deal with the inconvenience for a cleaner handlebar setup.


The Carbon X01 build features a nice upgrade to the 130 mm Pike RCT3 which uses the awesome Charger Damper that RockShox fans have grown to love. You’ll find a Fox Float 34 with the two other kits.

And, of course, what would a high-end trail bike be without a dropper post? Here Salsa opted for the internal cable routed Reverb Stealth.


I’ve had the Pony Rustler out on a few regular singletrack outings and a snowy/rainy/slushy overnight bikepacking excursion. It’s been a ton of fun on all of it. I’m really looking forward to putting some more miles on it and seeing if it could be the one bike my stable has been itching for. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Price: $5,499
Check out salsacycles.com for more information on the Pony Rustler and all their other bikes.

We’ll be running a long term review of the Pony Rustler in a future issue of Dirt Rag so stay tuned and make sure you have an active subscription so you don’t miss it, and all the great stuff we’ve got planned for the year.



Review: NiteRider Pro 1400 Race


The Pro 1400 Race is NiteRider’s lowest priced 1,000+ lumens LED mountain bike light. It has a bunch of modes to choose from, but the three light levels you’ll find most useful when riding your favorite trails are the steady modes with outputs of 400, 850 and 1400 lumens.


You’ll get about 9 hours and 30 minutes of runtime at the 400 lumens setting, 3 hours and 45 minutes at 850 lumens, and 2 hours at the Race’s maximum output of 1400 lumens. There are several other modes, such as blinking and a SOS distress signal, where you can expect upwards of 35 hours of runtime. Powering the light is a Lithium-ion battery that requires 5 hours of charge to bring it back from the dead. Overall, these are pretty good numbers for today’s light and battery technology.

I like having lights where I can run them at less than full power so that I eek out longer run times and can spend as much time on the bike as possible. The 850 setting on the Race is sufficient for biking at a moderately fast pace without outrunning the light’s beam. When entering more technical or fast sections, a quick switch to the 1400 beam provides enough illumination to stay safe at speed. By switching back and forth you can easily squeeze 3 or more hours out of the battery. The only downside to this approach is that you have to cycle through four light settings each time. The light also does not remember which lumen level you had last selected, so you’ll have to run through them all if you turn it off for any reason. Sort of a pain, especially if you mistakenly hit the button too many times and have to go through them twice.

The following are photos taken along a dark path in my local park with the light attached to the handlebars. I attempted to set the photo up so the light’s spot was about 10 feet in front of the handlebars, and the photo is framed to capture the beginning of the spot and the light thrown forward on the trail. This should replicate your view from the bike’s cockpit with your head at a natural angle looking down the trail. That being said, when you only have one light, I think it’s best to attach that to your helmet so the light illuminates where you are looking. A combination of a helmet and handlebar light is always best if you can afford it.


  • The low setting of 400 lumens is plenty for slower speeds along wide trails, or less technical climbs.


  • The 850 lumens setting is sufficient for most moderate speed cycling. You can see that as your speed increased, you could outrun the light at this setting.


  • The 1400 lumens setting is definitely adequate for high speed trails with more technical sections. Raising the angle of the light would provide an even better preview of the terrain on long, fast, flowy trails.

The Race’s fuel gauge is located on the top of the headlamp and is made up of four lights. As the battery discharges, the lights will go from solid to blinking to off from right to left, giving you an eight step gauge. It’s a great visual representation of how much battery is left. Obviously the gauge is not visible when using the headlamp on your helmet; unless you take your helmet off, ask a buddy to check or bring a mirror.


The battery case is slim, less then 1.75 inches at its thickest point, and is fairly lightweight. The entire system (headlamp included) weighs a mere 484 grams, or a little over one pound. The battery is about 6.25 inches long and is attached to your bike’s frame with two Velcro straps. The bottom of the battery case has a soft, concave rubber channel which keeps the battery stable and decreases the possibility of marring your bike’s paint. I didn’t notice any movement of the case during this test. I’m not one to shy away from the rocky lines either.

Included with the light is a battery, helmet mount, handlebar mount (up to 31.88mm), extension cable so you can throw the battery in your pack, and an AC adapter.

Since the included handlebar mount will only fit handlebars with a diameter up to 31.88 mm, you’ll need to purchase Niterider’s Pro Handlebar Strap Mount (part number 4145) if you want to run the light on thicker bars. The strap mount is only $19.99 and in some ways I like it a bit better than the included mount. It’s simpler and sits a bit more flush to the bars. The only drawback is you can’t center it along the stem like you can with the included mount. Neither the included mount nor the pro mount showed any signs of coming loose on any of my rides. You can find the alternate mount here.

Spending $250 on a light can be painful for some, but the Pro 1400 Race is a reasonably priced accessory that can keep you on your bike through those darker days of winter or allow you to experience your favorite daytime trails in a whole new way. That’s money well spent in my opinion, so it gets a solid recommendation from me.

Price: $250
More info: niterider.com



Interbike: Turner RFX v4.0 First Ride

The RFX has been out of the Turner lineup since 2007 but returns with a vengeance as a fully modern carbon fiber all-mountain bike.


The Turner website is already loaded up with prices and build kits, with complete bikes starting at $4,573 for SRAM GX, up to $8,718 with XTR and Enve wheels. Frames are $2,995, and an “upgrade kit” consisting of frame, headset and Pike RCT3 Solo fork is an even $3,400. The bike I rode was a mash-up of parts Turner had lying around, but was a solid mix, including Enve M60 rims, Pike fork and Monarch Plus rear shock, KS dropper and Thomson bar and stem.



Look closely at the pictures above. Do you notice anything (other than the prototype DVO suspension bits)? All cable routing is external. Take note, rest of the bike industry. The routing is clean, adaptable, and simple. No holes in the frame, no rubber cable adapters that fall out every ride, no service frustrations. And the frame has well hidden front derailleur mounts rather than the more typical direct mount.  The PF30 bottom bracket shell is another story. I guess we can’t have it all.

The new frame uses the proven dw-link suspension to control the 160 mm of rear travel. Geometry numbers are in the middle ground for bikes like this today, with a not too slack or steep 66-degree head angle, not too long 24.4 top tube in the large, 17.2-inch chainstays, and 13.4-inch bottom bracket height.

The Ride

David Turner is a bike guy, through and through, and from the first look in person at the new RFX, it looks like a serious and well thought out bike. Even with less-than-ideal tires, and narrower than I wanted handlebars, I had a great ride on the RFX.

Seated climbing is completely neutral, but getting out of the saddle can still create bob, something only partially mitigated with the platform lever on the rear shock. I’d like to spend some time trying to tune the rear shock a bit better to combat this, but really, other than climbing up steep sections of gravel road, I never thought about it.

On rolling sections of trail, the RFX feels quite neutral for such a bike bike. Not as playful and poppy as a Santa Cruz Nomad, but not overly stable or staid, either. In other words, it went about its business with a predicatble attitude and responded well to smooth or more spastic rider inputs.

I didn’t have time to shuttle up to the downhill course at Bootleg Canyon, so I didn’t really get a chance to open it up, but I don’t expect to see this being anything less than a ripper as speeds increase even as the riding position felt all-day comfortable to me. The dw-link disappears on the trail, with no mid-stroke wallow, and effective anti-squat to control bob, although that same aggressive anti-squat could cause the rear tire to scramble for traction more often than I expected.

The FSA headset Turner uses can be swapped to a offset model, for head angles  of 65 or 67 degrees if the stock 66 degrees is too slack or steep for your riding style/skills and riding area. No aluminum frame version is planned at this time.


As one of many 160 mm bikes released for 2016, this bike stacks up well against the best offerings on the market. We look forward to more saddle time on this newest Turner.


First Impression: Cannondale Rush 29 2

Editor’s note: This is one of six bikes we’ve gathered together that fall between $1,900 and $2,600. Read our introduction to see the other five and watch for our long-term reviews of each in Dirt Rag #182, due on newsstands and in mailboxes any day now. Subscribe now and you’ll never miss a bike review.

 Cannondale Rush-1

The Rush is could be looked at as a rowdier little brother to Cannondale’s well-regarded Scalpel. The 100 mm travel 29er is may be the quintessential East Coast mountain bike—enough travel to take the edge off the rough terrain, but not enough to get in the way when dealing with the inevitable short, punchy climbs we see so much of around here.

Cannondale Rush-5

Nothing fancy here—the rear suspension uses a basic single pivot with a swing link. A proven system and perhaps the most widely used in the industry, and a stark contrast to the Scalpel’s proprietary pivotless rear triangle.

Cannondale Rush-8  Cannondale Rush-4

The quick release axles front and rear speak to both the price ($2,170) and the cross country leanings of this bike.

Cannondale Rush-3

Not so common anymore: the triple crank. Cold weather riding + big boots = worn logos after a few rides.

Cannondale Rush-7

The full Shimano drivetrain and brake set-up, with a remote lockout for the fork, is perfect for when the time comes to sprint for that first World Cup podium.

Cannondale Rush-11

While the stock tires are admittedly narrow, there is a ton of clearance on this rear end for both bigger tires and mud.

Cannondale Rush-10

So far, I’ve had a lovely time on the 29-inch Rush, and have been impressed by how well those skinny little race tires are handling the wet trails. I did swap out the stock 120 mm stem for a 70 mm piece because, well, it is not 1995 anymore. But overall, the Rush has been a easy bike to get along with, other than relearning how to ride a triple crank.



Review: Trail LED Halo, DS and XXX lights


As we venture into the winter months and the sun is setting before most of us get home from work, lights become a necessary accessory on our rides. And while there are tons of great lighting options out there, Trail LED has some pretty interesting products we thought were worth checking out.

I have been testing three of their models: the XXX, DS and Halo. All the lights’ bodies are crafted from anodized aluminum, boast CREE LEDs as their light source, and are made in the USA. The lights have been designed so that they sit no more than three quarters of an inch off of your helmet. This is done by curving the light along the helmet’s edge and utilizing the light’s heat sink fins as attachment points for rubber bands which you loop through your helmet’s venting holes.

I did find that attaching the lights to my helmet was slightly more difficult than a “regular” light, especially one that you can just leave a small mount always attached. The process of attaching the Trail LEDs definitely got easier over time, but set aside a minute or two to do it indoors before you go on your ride. I would caution that these lights won’t fit on all helmets because of the way by which they mount. I had some difficulty attaching the larger Halo to a few helmets that had a limited number of vents. The smaller Trail LED models were more accommodating.

You can aim the beam slightly by making small fore and aft adjustments once the light is mounted on your helmet or handlebar. The lights also ship with small pads that can help with overall fit and aiming the beam. I did not find that the lights needed much if any adjustment on the helmets I used them on.

Quick Specs



  • Price: $350
  • Light weight: 50 grams
  • Battery weight: 285 grams.
  • Runtime: three hours at 1,800 lumens, six hours at 900 lumens, 27 hours at 200 lumens.



  • Price: $550
  • Light weight: 100 grams
  • Battery weight: 285 grams
  • Runtime: 1.5 hours at 3,000 lumens, 3.2 hours at 1,500 lumens, 16 hours at 300 lumens.



  • Price: $1,119
  • Light weight: 190 grams
  • Battery weight: Battery 570 grams
  • Runtime: two hours at 6,000 lumens, four hours at 4,000 lumens, 38 hours at 600 lumens.

Runtimes and battery charge times (one and a half to two hours) are pretty spot on. I did not test the lowest, longest lumen runtimes because I have better things to do with my day.

My Thoughts

The lower lumen settings on all the lights were dimmer than I was expecting for their quoted brightness. I didn’t have a way to quantify the actual lumen value, just my observation. This doesn’t really matter because if you are buying a 6,000 lumen light, you are going to be running it at 6,000 lumens. I mean what’s the purpose otherwise?

The XXX is a great, small, triple LED light that worked well as a supplemental light on my handlebars utilizing Trail LED’s handlebar adapter. Beam pattern is good and 1,800 lumens is more than enough for all applications.

The Halo is seriously bright on its full setting. Pitch black to daylight at the touch of a button. The beam pattern is amazingly good for a light system that curves around your head. There is a nice, bright mid-level spot and all of creation is lit well from there on out. You might get some odd looks from people, but this light is no joke.

The DS is probably my favorite of the lineup. Offering 3,000 lumens for an hour and a half is more than enough and seems to be brighter than the 4,000 lumen setting on the Halo. It’s also a lot less strange looking on your helmet. Due to its smaller size it is easier to attach to a wider range of helmets. For instance, my Bern helmet has no side venting so the Halo’s ends are not as fully secured as they are with the DS.

As with any helmet-mounted light there is lack of shadow detail, so 6,000 lumens on your head might not be for everybody. Mounting a light to the handlebar can bring back some of that detail, but that is only an option for the XXX and DS – the Halo is helmet only.

I’m significantly impressed with these lights. They are light, bright, have a crazy low profile, feel incredibly solid, and keep you riding through those dark nights and mornings. What more could you ask for?

Extra special tidbit…Trail LED has recently signed a partnership with Industry 9 to do its anodizing, allowing it to keep manufacturing in the US. Here’s to hoping we get some cool color choices too!


Check out the gallery of the XXX, DS, Halo and tests in the field.






Review: Uvex Quatro Pro helmet


This is the second Uvex helmet I’ve had, and I’m really sold on their design. For me the fit is dialed, the enclosure system is simple and dependable, and helmet doesn’t look stupid on my head.

The visor is very easy to adjust, but it does seem a bit narrower than others. As with most helmets, the pads are removable and washable. It’s pretty light to boot.

Oh yeah, before I let you think I love everything about this helmet. It ships with a stupid back spoiler that came off as soon as I looked at myself in the mirror. Seriously…is this supposed to create downdraft and help me stay connected to my bike or something? I just don’t get it, but there are a lot of other things from Europe I don’t get either.  And here’s to hoping they incorporate MIPS into the next generation.


Helmet fit is subjective. People’s heads are all different shapes and sizes.

The Uvex Quatro Pro tries to overcome this problem with something Uvex terms as anatomic IAS fitting. IAS allows the wearer to adjust both the height and length of the internal retention system. Height is adjusted by way of above the ear vertical clips that have seven different positions. Diameter is adjusted with the rear knob we’re all accustomed too.

In addition the straps are easily configurable and the chin strap closure system is one of my favorites. Easy to open, close and adjust with one hand, gloved or not.


There are 17 vent holes, with the front three featuring some much welcomed bug netting. I mean who likes having bees find a way into their helmet while concentrating on that next section of trail?


The Quatro Pro has a polycarbonate exterior shell molded around an internal EPS foam structure.

Sizing and MSRP

The uvex Quatro Pro comes in two sizes: 56-61 and 52-57. MSRP is $190.

Brush up on your German and watch uvex’s promo video for some more highlights.



Review: Answer Rove FR Pedals


For the past month I’ve been running Answer’s Rove FR pedals on all my bikes. Swapping between a fatty, full suspension, dirt jumper and gravel grinder. That’s just how I roll.

The Roves are solid. They feature a concave platform and ten hex-head pins per side. They even ship with ten replacement pins for when you tear a few off.

The pedal’s 6061 series alloy deck is just wide enough to provide a good platform for my feet and the pins keep my trusty Five Ten Freeriders from slipping around. I’ve had grippier pedals in the past, but the Roves maintain a nice balance between grip and the freedom to reset my foot when I get a bit out of sorts. That said, I’ve yet to slip a pedal…knock on wood.

Weighing in at 467 grams the Roves feature a cartridge bearing and steel axle that should take a pounding, and a thin 16mm profile to keep those rock hits to a minimum.

This is a great moderately priced pedal which feels like it will stand the test of time.


Colors: Red, Black, Gold, White, Silver.

MSRP: $95


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